Thursday, December 28, 2006

World Peace Cookies (Korova Cookies)

These, along with the no-knead bread, are all over the food blogging community. I plan to try the bread, maybe even later today, and did make the cookies right before Christmas. They really are fantastic; rich and deeply chocolatey and easy. The saltiness of them works beautifully with the chocolate. Other blogs I'd read had suggested this was not really a recipe for children, but my 9 year old loves them and has been sneaking them. I still think the ginger cookies are the best cookies ever, but these come close. The recipe I used comes from Splendid Table from Dorie Greenspan, who says this:

I once said I thought these cookies, the brainchild of the Parisian pastry chef Pierre Hermé, were as important a culinary breakthrough as Toll House cookies, and I've never thought better of the statement. These butter-rich, sandy-textured slice-and-bake cookies are members of the sablé family. But, unlike classic sablés, they are midnight dark — there's cocoa in the dough — and packed with chunks of hand-chopped bittersweet chocolate. Perhaps most memorably, they're salty. Not just a little salty, but remarkably and sensationally salty. It's the salt — Pierre uses fleur de sel, a moist, off-white sea salt — that surprises, delights and makes the chocolate flavors in the cookies seem preternaturally profound.

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (I had coarse sea salt; I crushed it in a mortar and pestle, which was a very quick job and worked fine)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small bits (I used the good, inexpensive pound plus 72% dark chocolate from Trader Joe's).
*Sift together flour, cocoa, and baking soda.
*Beat butter in standing mixer until creamy and light. Add sugar and beat. Add salt and vanily and beat until creamy.
*Dump in dry ingredients. Drape a towel over mixer (or use the splatter guard, which I just remembered now that I have) VERY CAREFULLY (you don't want it to get caught in the beaters of death) and pulse 5 or so times, one second each, until flour is somewhat incorporated.
*Mix at low speed about 30 seconds until batter is just combined. Do not overmix.
*Add chocolate pieces and mix again briefly.
*Divide dough into two on pieces of waxed paper. Shape into rough log and wrap in paper, then roll out until it's about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Chill for three hours at least in fridge; may freeze at this point.
*Preheat oven to 325. Line baking sheets with parchment or Silpat (I think greasing the sheets would be fine, too.)
*Slice log into 1/2'"slices. Note: this is a lot thicker than most icebox cookies, but it works. T hey may crumble when sliced-that's OK, just squish them back together. Arrange on sheet, leaving 1" or so between them.
*Bake 12 minutes only. They will still look underbaked; that is ok. Cool for at least 5 minutes on sheet before transferring to rack. Eat warm or cool.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Barbecued Meatballs

From my beloved Aunt Beth, I think, though this has long been a family favorite and I'm not really sure quite which aunt originated it. Regardless, this is classic potluck food and a big favorite with kids and grownups. They freeze beautifully-since the recipe as written makes 2 pans, it's nice to eat one now and freeze one for later (that office potluck you forgot about until 10 o'clock the night before). I like to double the sauce to have extra to serve over rice or potatoes, but the dish is really good as written.

*3 Lbs ground beef
*2 cups quick oats
*1 tsp pepper
*2 tsp minced garlics (about two cloves' worth), divided
*1 13 oz can evaporated milk (low fat would work fine)
*1 1/2 cups chopped onion, divided
*2 cups ketchup
*2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp chili powder (note: this is not intended to be a spicy dish. Know your chili powder well; if it's spicy, you might want to reduce this amount)
*2 tsp salt
*1 1/2 cups brown sugar
*2 Tbsp liquid smoke (really, this is essential. It's cheap and it's awesome in this dish).

-Preheat oven to 350.
-Use your hand to blend meat, oats, milk, 1 cup of onion, 1/2 the garlic, eggs, chili powder, salt and pepper in large bowl until thoroughly mixed. Shape into 1 1/2" balls and place in single layer in 2 9"x13" baking dishes.
-Combine ketchup, brown sugar, liquid smoke, and remaining garlic and onion. Pour over meatballs.
-Bake for an hour, covered with foil for the first half.

Spinach Apple Salad with Candied Almonds

This is a perennial family favorite, and a standard to take to potlucks. It is always well-received. It's easy, and the flavors are a good way to introduce kids to spinach (it's fairly sweet, the dressing isn't too strongly flavored, and kids usually are very happy about apple slices). The almonds are delicious, and any leftover would be great on ice cream. Theoretically, that is, as I've never had any left over. This is taken from Bon Appetit, with a few small adaptations. In my experience, if you make the full amount of dressing, you'll have way too much for one bag of spinach (unless you like your salad swimming in dressing). I'd either save the dressing to have salad again the next night, or cut the dressing in half. You can make the almonds and dressing in advance; slice apples and toss all together at the last minute.
1/4 cup minced onion
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons sugar (divided)
1/2 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup blanched slivered almonds (about 3 ounces)

1 10- ounce bag ready-to-use spinach leaves
2 medium-size apples, cored, thinly sliced

Combine onion, cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, paprika in small bowl. Mix in 2 tablespoons sugar. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. (Note: I usually do this in my food processor-chopping the onion in the bowl then adding the other ingredients without cleaning out the bowl, finally drizzling the olive oil through the tube. You want the onion very finely chopped).

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add almonds. Stir until almonds begin to color, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over. Stir until sugar melts and begins to turn golden, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer almonds to bowl and cool. (Dressing and almonds can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover separately and let stand at room temperature.)

Combine spinach and apples in large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Mix in almonds. Serve salad, passing any remaining dressing separately.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Insanely Fabulous, Over the Top Ginger Cookies

"These cookies are the bomb" said husband. Coworkers agreed, and I ate at least 42 of them myself. Mary loves them as well, even though they are spicy and strong-flavored (not always a plus for kids, as we all know). The recipe is easy and kids like helping roll the cookie into balls and then into sugar (my least favorite part). I've been on a molasses and ginger sort of kick lately-due to the holidays, I'm sure. I always want to lock myself in the house and listen to Christmas carols and cook and eat and watch the snow for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of course, there is no snow, and the rain is depressing. And on December 26th, I'm so sick of carols I could happily take a sledge hammer to Christmas with the Jackson 5. But right now, this early, there still COULD be snow, and the carols are beautiful, and the lights on the house look fantastic, and there are these wonderful cookies. The chopped crystallized ginger adds great flavor but also makes the cookies moist and almost candied in the center. The large quantities of spice and the unexpected black pepper are essential. Don't be afraid.

Modified from a recipe from

Makes about 70.

*4 cups all purpose flour
*2 TBS ground ginger
*1 TBS + 1 tsp baking soda
*2 tsp ground cinnamon
*2 (scant) tsp ground cloves
*10 "turns" of fresh ground black pepper.
*1 1/4 tsp salt
* 1 1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger (the Baker's Cut from Trader Joe's is perfect-and cheap)
*2 cups dark brown sugar
*1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
*2 large eggs
*1/2 cup molasses

*White sugar (to roll cookies in; can substitute raw sugar)

*Mix first seven ingredients in large bowl to blend.
*Whirl chopped ginger in food processor til it's a mix of powdery ginger goodness and some larger chunks. Add to dry ingredients and blend.
*Using mixer, beat butter and brown sugar til creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add molasses and beat to combine. Gradually mix in dry ingredients and crystallized ginger, beating only until combined.
*Chill dough for about an hour in the fridge.
*Heat oven to 350. Grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper or Silpat.
*Roll cookies into balls of about 1". Roll balls into sugar. Place a couple inches apart.
*Bake 10-11 minutes. Cookies will be cracked when done but will look raw between cracks. That's good! Cool for a minute on pan then remove to cool on racks.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Chicken Diablo (Honey Mustard Chicken)

This is one of my go-to recipes for company (especially picky eaters or folks who I don't know well) and for bringing to people with a new baby or sick family members. It's easy and very flavorful. Kids like it (it's fairly sweet and not too spicy) and it would be a great first dinner recipe for a child to cook. It's wonderful on potatoes or rice. I usually double the sauce to have enough to pour over the potatoes. Thanks to my mom for this recipe.

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1-2 tsp curry powder (I'll use a TBS when doubling)
1 tsp salt
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, approximately (however many you can fit in a single layer in your 9"x13" pan. Which reminds me that I'll usually use an 8"x8" pan and the above amount of sauce when making for new parents or another household of two or so).

*Preheat oven to 375.
*Mix above ingredients.
*Arrange chicken breasts in a 9"x13" pan. Pour sauce over.
*Bake, uncovered, for about an hour, turning and basting occasionally.

Classic Corn bread

I love this. It's simple, it's fast (I timed it tonight, and not rushing at all, with a fussy baby in tow, I had it mixed and ready to go by the time the oven was hot). My husband likes it with chopped jalapenos mixed in; I prefer it with butter and honey, and Mary (the 9 year old) likes it best plain. It works very well in an 8"x8" Pyrex pan, but oh, if you're lucky enough to have a cast iron cornbread pan then it will be even more beautifully crisp and golden.

This recipe came from an old Good Housekeeping cookbook, that seems to be no longer in print. I've made some adjustments. It has less sugar than the most common cornbread recipes, and uses butter instead of vegetable oil (always an improvement). It doesn't keep more than a day, but it almost never hangs around that long, anyway.

1 cup flour
3/4 cup cornmeal, preferably yellow
2 TBS sugar
1 tsp salt
1 TBS baking powder
1/3 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup milk
1 egg, beaten

*Heat oven to 425. Grease an 8"x8" pan or cast iron cornbread mold.
*Mix dry ingredients.
*Mix wet ingredients and pour into dry. Stir just until moistened, pour into pan.
*Bake 25 minutes (closer to 20 in cast iron).

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Buttery Noodles

Courtesy of our fabulous friends, Scott and Jean and Emma. Emma is 9, Mary's age, and we take her camping with us every Memorial Day weekend while her folks hit the wineries and drink themselves silly. Thank God that WE are responsible :). Emma contributed this dish for dinner one night-it was a big hit with our girl, and it's surprisingly comforting and yummy. Easy for children to cook, as well. Open to much enhancement, but do so at the risk of losing your child-fans.

Elbow noodles, enough for 2 or 3 people
4 TBS butter
2-3 oz light cream cheese
1/4 cup milk
a bunch of finely grated parmesan
dash of salt (and pepper, if you can sneak it by the kids).

Cook the elbow noodles in salted water and drain. Put empty pot back on burner, turn heat to medium low, add butter and melt. Add noodles and toss with butter. Add cream cheese, cut into chunks, and stir over heat until melted. Add milk and parmesan and continue to stir until melty and hot. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Chicken Stock

As mentioned before, this is from The New Best Recipe, the one cookbook I would take to a desert island. The chopping up of the chicken was a pain, and a little too graphic for my taste, and made me wish for a good butcher knife or kitchen shears. The result was worth all the effort-and really, once it's chopped, it's a very simple recipe. The technique of browning the chicken pieces makes it very flavorful.

1 TBS vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 whole chicken, breast removed, split and reserved, the rest hacked into about 2" pieces
2 Quarts boiling water
2 tsp salt
2 bay leaves

Heat oil in large dutch oven or stockpot. When it's shimmering hot, add the breast halves and saute until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Add the onion to the pot and saute until colored and softened slightly, 2-3 minutes. Remove to a large bowl.

Add half the remaining chicken pieces and saute until no longer pink, 4-5 minutes. Remove to bowl with onion. Repeat with remaining pieces. Return the onion and chicken parts (not the breasts) to the pot, reduce heat to low, cover and cook about 20 minutes.

Increase heat to high, add boiling water, chicken breasts, salt, and bay leaves. Simmer, cover, and keep simmering on low heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Remove the breasts from the pot. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the breasts and shred into bite sized pieces to use for soup.

Strain the stock through a mesh strainer into a container and discard the rest of the solids. Cool in fridge until fat rises to top; skin the fat and reserve for later.

Freezes well.

Chicken Noodle Soup

I combined a couple of different recipes for this, and it was wonderfully good. It's a simple recipe, but nourishing, especially when you have a sad, sick husband in the house. It's also cheap, as the only ingredient that costs much at all is the whole chicken, and those are never very expensive. I tried to make homemade noodles for this but was not happy with the results-I didn't roll them thin enough, and was wishing I had a pasta machine to get them wafer thin. I'd use commercial frozen or dried egg noodles next time, until I figure out the right noodle recipe.

2 Quarts Chicken stock, from The New Best Recipe ideally
Breast meat from above recipe, shredded. (two chicken breasts' worth)
2 TBS reserved chicken fat from above recipe, or vegetable oil
2-4 carrots, depending on size and your love of carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4" rounds
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1-3 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
8 oz wide egg noodles
ground black pepper

Heat chicken fat in dutch oven over medium high heat. Add vegetables and garlic (is garlic a vegetable?) and saute about 5 minutes, until softened. Stir occasionally so garlic doesn't scorch.

Add stock, chicken meat, thyme and simmer until veggies are tender.

Add noodles and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes (note: if you plan to freeze, don't add noodles now. Wait til you serve, and add at the end of your reheating time, or else they'll get way too mushy).

Add black pepper, salt (if needed) and a dash of sherry, all to taste.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Grecian Chicken

I have absolutely no idea why this is called Grecian Chicken. It's not reminiscent of anything I've eaten in Greece or at Greek restaurants in the states. Perhaps, though, it's what they eat in Greece in the winter, when it's cold and the tourists have all gone home. It's simple, aromatic, deeply flavorful. It's also frugal-use cheap wine and chicken thighs (0.88 a pound last week!); the meat will fall off the bone when it's done. Serve over brown rice or noodles. My mom made this for company when I was a child, and I still think it's a great company dish, especially since you can make it ahead and leave it alone for a few hours.


Chicken parts for six people...........chicken breasts or thighs
1 onion, sliced thin
2 cups of red wine
1 cup ketchup
1/2 c cold water
2 rounded tblsp. sugar
1 boullion cube (shaved) or one tsp. of instant boullion (recipe doesn't say beef or chicken ...
.just take your pick)
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1 large bay leaf
salt to taste
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup raisins (these are very important to the taste)

prepared rice for serving

Put oil in the bottom of a dutch oven. Salt and pepper the chicken, then fry until brown. Remove
chicken from the pan and put onions in pan and cook until tender. Place chicken on top of onions.

In the meantime mix wine, ketchup, water, sugar boullion , garlic, salt and bay leaf together.

Pour almonds and raisins on top of the chicken. Pour sauce over all.

Cook, covered, 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 325 degrees OR bring to simmer on stopetop, reduce heat to
very low, and cook, covered on stove

Cook rice just before serving.

Place chicken on a platter and sauce in a gravy boat/sauce dish, etc.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gateau au Yaourt (Yogurt Cake)

This is an amazingly easy, flavorful cake. Mary and I are about to make our second of the week-this time for a dinner party. We've added about 3/4 cup of frozen blueberries and it's wonderful-nice for breakfast, too. As part of my effort to get my daughter engaged in cooking, I let her pick a country's cuisine this week, and thus we ended up cooking French food Tuesday night. We made a Quiche Lorraine that was superbly, artery-cloggingly good (from Cooks Illustrated; I'll post the recipe soon) and this cake, from the wonderful French cooking blog Chocolate&Zucchini. Mary loves this cake, and it's so simple she could probably bake it by herself (a good kids' first cake). We made it with thick Greek yogurt, but I think it would be fine with a yogurt that was less-rich. I'd like to try it with almond extract. Maybe tonight.

Gateau au Yaort

Update: Didn't have quite enough yogurt tonight so added a couple of tablespoons of peach yogurt, and substituted almond extract for the rum. It was good, didn't take much different. I forgot to sprinkle the top of the the cake with raw sugar before baking, which I did last time, and missed the sweet caramel crunchiness. It was a hit with our guests, nonetheless.

French Dip Sandwiches

We had leftover roast beef from a camping trip this summer, and David requested this dish. I had never made (nor particularly enjoyed) french dips, but this was really, really good. And really, really easy. I think the sherry and the shallots were key, though it would be good with a small amount of onion and chopped garlic, too. From Rachael Ray, who annoys me, but can cook. And my daughter loves to watch her show-better than watching Pokemon or Dancing with the Stars, I think.

2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 shot dry sherry (2 TBS)
4 cups beef broth-I use Better than Boullion-cheap at Trader Joe's
1 1/2 pounds deli sliced roast beef
Grill seasoning blend for steak, such as Montreal Steak Seasoning Blend, or, coarse salt and pepper
4 hoagie rolls, split

In a large, shallow skillet over moderate heat, melt butter. Add shallots to butter and saute 2 minutes. Add flour to butter and shallot and cook a minute longer. Whisk in sherry and cook liquid out. Whisk in broth in a slow stream. Bring sauce to a bubble and allow to simmer over low heat until ready to serve sandwiches.

Pile meat loosely across your cutting board or a large work surface. Season meat with grill seasoning or salt and black pepper. Set out 4 ramekins or small soup cups for dipping sauce, 4 dinner plates and 4 split torpedo rolls. To assemble, using a pair of kitchen tongs, dip meat into loose au jus sauce and pile into rolls. Set ramekins or cups with extra dipping sauce along side the sandwiches.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Crispy Ginger Orange Tofu and Vegetables

This was my first experience cooking with tofu, which I've long thought I hated. I live in a very tofu-centric community, and perhaps my resistance was just due to my inherent oppositionality (new word of the day). But I have to believe there's some validity to my distaste. It's got that freaky texture, after all: gummy and spongy, like hardboiled egg whites (I hate hardboiled eggs) with no taste. Tofu-loving friends of mine have tried me to convince me that there is more to their beloved bean curd than I've believed, saying you can make it flavorful and crispy. I finally decided to give it a go, and adapted three or so recipes into the following. And man, it was good. I mean, I'm usually always right :) but I was wrong about tofu. This had us all sneaking the little leftover crispy tofu bits. My daughter wasn't a big fan of the veggies (but I think next time I'll try peapods, which she likes) but she liked the tofu and sauce and rice (though she persisted in calling the tofu chicken).

This is a recipe you can play with a lot. Cook up some brown rice to serve with. Sub whatever vegetables you've got on hand. Recently, I had to use half lemon juice, as I only had one orange in the house. It was very tart, so I added a tablespoon of honey while cooking the sauce. It was still very tart, but also delicious, and Mary still loved it. The trick of dusting the tofu with cornstarch is apparently very helpful in making it golden and crispy.

*1 lb firm or extra-firm tofu
*Soy Sauce
*Dry Sherry
*Sesame Oil
*Vegetable Oil
*Several cups of vegetables prepared to stir-fry. I used thinly sliced carrots, broccoli slaw, and green onions. Cabbage, spinach, mushrooms, regular onions would all be good, too, I think.
*1 TBS toasted sesame seeds (or more, if you'd like)
*1 1/2-2 TBS grated fresh ginger
*2 or 3 large garlic cloves, minced
*3/4 c orange juice

A few hours, or the night before you want to eat, slice the tofu into four to six thin slices. Place on a kitchen towel, then wrap the towel over the tofu and weight the whole lot down (I put a cookie sheet on top, then a few big cookbooks). This presses the water out of the tofu. You may need to change the towel part of the way through.

When done, cut the tofu into approximately 1" cubes and put in a ziploc bag. Add a splash of soy sauce, a splash of sherry, and some sesame oil (amounts aren't really important). Marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in large nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. While it's heating, pat tofu cubes dry and lightly dust with cornstarch (I put some cornstarch in a small wire sieve and tapped it over them, turning them occasionally). When very hot, add tofu cubes and cook, stirring occasionaly to turn them over, until they are golden brown and crispy. Be patient at first, as it takes awhile for them to start browning. Watch carefully at the end and lower heat as necessary, as they can suddenly begin to burn. Remove tofu to plate.

Add vegetables to the hot pan-remembering to add the ones that take longest to cook first. So in my case I added the carrots, cooked, stirring constantly for a minute or two, then added the broccoli slaw. When both were done but still had some crispness to them, I added a couple of chopped green onions and the sesame seeds. Stir fry for a few seconds and then remove to a second plate or bowl.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add ginger, garlic, orange juice, a TBS of soy sauce, and 2 TBS of sesame oil. Cook, stirring constantly, until it's bubbly and well-combined. Add tofu to sauce and heat through until the sauce coats the tofu and is somewhat thickened.

Spoon veggies over rice, and then tofu and sauce overall to serve.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Stuff I Love-practical

Do you have one of these?

Microplane Grater: grates chocolate and parmesan and citrus zest! Makes these beautiful cloudlike piles of parmesan cheese, and my 9 year old loves to use it.
Butter Bell: keeps butter soft and fresh at room temperature for a long time. We love it because it solves the dilemma of having to choose between hard butter that rips holes in your bread or soft "spread" that isn't the real thing.
Forschner knives highly rated by Cooks' Illustrated-and much less expensive than the brands you normally encounter at high-end cookshops. We have the paring knife and the chef's knife, which cost about $30 total and are fantastic. Made by Victorinox, the Swiss Army folks.
Garlic peeler: simpler rubber tube. Cheap, effective, fun for the baby to play with.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic

This is a feeble attempt to counteract the death-dealing properties of the last recipe. I have to admit, though, that even though this dish is healthy, it's really, really good. And simple. And easy. It is the only cauliflower dish a friend of mine who hates cauliflower enjoys. Since the cauliflower cooks down so much, it's a very easy way to eat a lot of veggies in one serving. I like to do two cauliflower heads at once, so we can have it for dinner and have leftovers. My daughter, alas, is not a fan, but we keep trying.

*1 or 2 heads cauliflower, chopped into pretty small pieces (say 1/4-3/4 inches-but not a big deal-just chop it up)
*Lots of chopped garlic-the stuff in the jar is fine, though fresh is best. I'll use a tablespoon, at least
*Olive oil
*salt and freshly-ground pepper

Head oven to 375. Put cauliflower in a 9x13" dish. Add garlic. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir well. Place, uncovered, in oven. Cook until the cauliflower is a nice golden brown, stirring frequently to keep garlic from burning.

Chocolate Stout Cake

This is one fantastic recipe. It's insanely easy and incredibly delicious. I've had multiple recipe requests, and have made it twice in the last couple weeks. It makes a huge amount-the original recipe makes an enormous 3 layer cake, but I haven't tried that. Cut it in half to make a bundt cake, if you'd like. First attempt, I made a bundt cake and 12 cupcakes (most reviewers of the original recipe found it made 20 cupcakes-we went to town eating the batter first-apparently 8 cupcakes' worth). Second attempt, 40 cupcakes. It's supposed to freeze well, so 10 of the cupcakes (unfrosted) are in my freezer. The ganache recipe for frosting is very easy, and leftovers are great melted on icecream. Some reviewers complained about the recipe tasting of beer, but none of us noticed that (dammit)-it has a nice, rich, yeast taste.

Modified slightly from (from Bon Appetit-a recipe requested from the Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington, Massachusetts).

2 cups stout (I used Guinness-almost 2 bottles, drink the leftovers)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Dutch-process cocoa powder

4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups nonfat yogurt (what I used) or sour cream

2 cups whipping cream
1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides, bundt pan, or put paper liners in cupcake tins (can make cupcakes in batches). Butter very well-ideally using the Baker's Joy spray.

Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and yogurt in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. If making full recipe, you'll probably have to add the last of the flour by hand, even if using a Kitchenaid, as it makes so much batter. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes (Start cupcakes for 15 minutes; probably will take longer.) Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.

For icing:
Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently. If you refrigerate too long and it gets too hard, let it sit on the counter or zap briefly on low in the microwave to soften enough to spread.

If making bundt cake, spoon ganache over cake while still fairly warm.

If making layer cake, place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lentil and Brown Rice Soup

This is my favorite kind of meal. It's delicious, it's simple, it makes lots to freeze (and reheats beautifully), it makes your house smell wonderful, and it's healthy to boot. From Gourmet magazine via, which I think is hands down the web's best recipe source. I've made a few changes.

5 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 cup brown rice
28 oz can chopped tomatoes
3 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried orégano
1/4 teaspoon crumbled dried thyme
(or, as I prefer, add a bunch of the above herbs, fresh, at the end of cooking-or do a little dried during, a litte fresh at the end)
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves or cilantro
1 lb smoked sausage (the low fat turkey is good in this)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar, or to taste
hot sauce, to taste, if desired

In a dutch oven or other heavy kettle, combine the broth, 3 cups water*, the lentils, the rice, the tomatoes with the reserved juice, the carrots, the onion, the celery, the garlic, the basil, the orégano, the thyme, and the bay leaf, bring the liquid to a boil, and simmer the mixture, covered, stirring occasionally, for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the lentils and rice are tender. Stir in the parsley, the vinegar, and salt and pepper** to taste and discard the bay leaf. The soup will be thick and will thicken as it stands. Thin the soup, if desired, with additional hot chicken broth or water.

If using sausage, slice into small half circles and cook in nonstick pan until brown. Add to soup near end of cooking time.

*I used chicken "Better Than Boullion", which I think is better than the canned broth, though not as good as homemade. So, 8 cups water and a little less than 2 tablespoons of BTB. I might actually reduce the boullion next time; I love salt, but this was a little too salty.
**The soup was plenty salty, as mentioned above, and I added no extra salt.

Makes about 14 cups, serving 6 to 8. The recipe makes quite a bit; eat for dinner that night and freeze the rest, if you'd like. Excellent with a good crusty brown bread. It's very thick-more stew like than soup-like, but I liked it that way.

Kid factor: My daughter was ambivalent about this, but had burned her tongue when first tasting so was very resistent to trying it again. We'll serve it to her again from the freezer and see how it goes.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Thoughts about Baby Food and an Applesauce recipe

With my eldest daughter, I introduced baby food (rice cereal! yum yum) at 4 months and added regularly after that, sticking the the baby book schedule. I made some of my own baby food, but bought a lot, too, while continuing to breast feed.

This time around, we decided to wait for baby to hit six months, as she was happy with breast milk alone and we're trying to do anything we can to protect her from our family's bad history of skin and other allergies. (I should clarify that we are not allergic TO skin; rather, lots of excema and psoriasis issues. Being allergic to skin would be disturbing). So, right at six months, we ceremoniously introduce rice cereal, mixed with breast milk, to be greeted by tightly clamped lips and a turned away head. She was very interested in everything we were eating, just not in any of that baby food crap.

So we tried these, which I believe my sister, the occupational therapist, had sent: baby food mesh feeders. They are a fantastic idea-little mesh bags that you can put anything appropriate for baby (no marsala-soaked tiramisu or crack cocaine) and baby can suck and chew away and not risk choking. Our baby loves playing with them, but still really was more interested in really digging into people food. We tried things like bits of mashed banana, unsweetened applesauce, avocado, but she wasn't interested in doing anything but smear them around on her high chair (and may I just say that the highchair tray that goes in the dishwasher is the world's greatest invention. Next to reliable birth control. Though if birth control was perfectly reliable some of us, perhaps, might not need aforementioned high chair).

All of the sudden, she wants to eat everything. I've been bad and have let her have things that a good mom would wait for years to try, either because they are bad for her (cake batter ice cream!) or because they have mixed ingredients (lentil soup) and I know you're supposed to add things individually. Still, I'm trying hard to stick to my slow food goals for my baby, too, and we have avoided any prepared baby food. She'll tolerate avocado, loves to chew on a crust of bread or piece of pita, and really is happy gnawing on a slice of apple or asian pear. We've been drying the asian pear into rings (we have a box full) and those are fun for her as they are easy to hold. No teeth yet, so we don't worry much about her chewing off a piece of, say, apple, though we do watch very closely, of course.

Easiest recipe ever:
*unsweetened applesauce, store frozen into ice cubes. Either thaw individually for a serving, or put a frozen one in a mesh bag and let baby go to town. Messy, but makes for a happy teething baby. And, if you haven't tried before, applesauce is the easiest thing ever. Wash apples, slice into quarters-peel and core if you don't have a food mill, add a little water, and cook until they are really soft. If you have a food mill, run them through. If not, mash with a potato masher. Add sugar if you'd like, though not for a baby.

Applesauce variations:
Of course, you can add sugar, cinnamon, etc.
Add some horseradish and serve with pork.
IF your baby doesn't appreciate your applesauce cubes, throw into your next smoothie.

What was I thinking?

I had this vague hope that blogging about food would be an incentive for me to eat better-you know, it'd be kind of like keeping that food diary nutrition folks always tell us to keep. So yeah, that lasted almost three days, until I was starving rushing home from work today, and pulled into McDonald's and got the $1 bacon cheeseburger, and a chocolate shake. Ugh. And we really don't eat fast food that often.

In the spirit of trying to learn from this, some obvious reminders to myself:
*Take good food to work. (I had done this today, had great leftovers, but ran out of time to heat them up and couldn't eat them on the way home, because eating a ziploc bag of soup in the car is even worse than my horrible habit of talking on the cel phone while driving). Therefore:
*Remember to eat the good food that I make, so I don't waste money/calories/time/karmic debt on fast food.
*Eat before I get starving, so I don't make stupid choices.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Cous Cous Salad with Orange Dressing

This doubles easily, and is open to lots of variation. Very quick, as well.

*2 1/4 Cups chicken broth or water, boiling.
*1 1/2 Cups cous cous
*1/2 Cup chopped dried apricots, currants, or raisins (I prefer apricots)
*1 can chickpeas (garbonzo beans), drained and rinsed (or other canned beans)
*1 bunch green onions, chopped
*1/4-1/2 Cup slivered almonds (or other nuts)
*optional: cooked chicken from a roast chicken

Place cous cous and dried fruit in medium to large bowl. Pour boiling broth over, stir to mix, and let stand 5 minutes. Add beans and onions, stir and fluff.

*3/4 Cup orange juice
*3 TBS balsamic vinegar
*3 TBS orange zest (zest from 2 or 3 oranges)
*1 TBS ground cumin
*1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all in a jar. Put the lid on :). Shake vigorously to blend right. Add to salad and toss-start with about 1/2 the jar and more to taste.

Does well made ahead, and left overs are great.

Pasta with Peas, Parmesan, and Bacon

This is what we had for dinner last night, and my daughter helped stir, and grated the cheese. We all enjoyed the dish (bacon! cream! butter! garlic!)-she ate a whole helping, peas and all (and cooked peas are usually a big No). Served with a side of sliced cucumber and sliced Asian Pear-a quick meal, with 2 1/2 servings of fruits and veggies.

*12 oz pasta (we used the little shells, which were perfect)
*1 TBS olive oil, plus more to toss with cooked pasta
*1 small onion, chopped,
*1 cup frozen peas
*6-8 slices bacon (or ham or prosciutto)
*2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
*1 TBS dry sherry (optional)
*3/4 cup half and half, whipping cream, or nonfat evaporated milk (we used 1/2 and 1/2)
*1 TBS butter
*3/4 cup finely grated parmesan.

*Cook pasta using package directions. When al dente, drain and then place back in pot and toss with olive oil.
*Heat 1 TBS olive oil in large skillet on medium. Add onion, reduce heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
*Meanwhile, cook bacon. The least messy (though I suppose, not technically slow foodish) way to cook bacon is in the microwave-place slices in flat layer between two paper towels, cook on High in 2 minute intervals until done). Chop into small pieces.
*Add peas and 2 TBS water to pan. Stir until peas are somewhat defrosted. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so.
*Add sherry and half and half. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, letting it bubble some.
*Remove from heat. Add bacon. Add butter, stir to melt. Add parmesan, stir to melt. Serve.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A few things I've found to actually work (sometimes) with kids and good food

*I once read that we all need to be exposed to brand-new flavors something like 21 times before we develop a taste for them. I've been telling my daughter this for years and so she knows that she has to try everything, every time, because one time she just might like it. It's worked as her tastes have changed (and it works for grown-ups, too; note my newly developed taste for sushi at the age of 35. Just in time to get pregnant and not be able to eat it and thus crave it horribly for the next nine months).
*Everyone in our family gets to pick one food that they never, ever have to try. It needs to be permanent; it can't change with every meal. I figure that kids, just like grown-ups, have things they really dislike and that should be respected, to an extent. My daughter's is broccoli, my husband's is grapefruit, and mine is eggs.
*In the obvious but true category: kids are more likely to eat things they pick out and help cook. When my daughter was old enough to read, we found a couple of good kids' cookbooks and we like to have her be primarily responsible for picking meals from them once a week or so. She struggles with math, and so the fact that cooking is a great way to understand fractions better is a great bonus. The cookbook we like the most right now is the DK Children's Cookbook. Another great resource is Family Fun Magazine.
*Take kids shopping with you whenever possible. And yes, I know it's a pain. I know you can get it done faster by yourself. I know sometimes you can tell your husband you are shopping, then get it done quickly and stop for a latte and a brioche and read the paper, while the kids are at home with him. Just take them with you sometimes, especially when you go to the farmer's market. Ask your child to pick one thing they've never eaten (one nutritious thing; not one new flavor of pop tart) and then go home and figure out together how to cook it.
*Garden. This theoretically works; I have a black thumb of death and kill most everything I plant. I do manage to grow tomatoes and rhubarb and zucchini and herbs every year. Let your child plant their own patch and eat what they grown.
*Join a CSA (community supported agriculture-click on the link to find one near you). Getting a mystery box of produce delivered to your house is exciting for kids and grown-ups. It's like a treasure hunt. There might be a plum! There might just be broccoli!

Getting vegetables down the kids

Nine year olds and vegetables. Sigh.

Here's what she'll always eat:
*Artichokes. One of her all-time favorite foods. Picked for birthday meals. Best prices usually at Trader Joe's-I can't stand paying two or three bucks a piece, which is what they will often cost in the grocery stores around here unless they are right in season. She likes them best plain or with ranch; I have to have bearnaise.
*Edamame (you know, raw soybeans in the pod-nice tossed with kosher salt after you've steamed them for 5 minutes). Trader Joe's has great prices-I always have whole and shelled in the freezer.
*Raw peas in the pod. Good deal when you buy the big bag at Costco for $5. Otherwise, usually pretty expensive.
*Raw baby carrots.
*Baked or mashed potatoes.
*Raw green beans and (horror of horrors) CANNED green beans. Gotta love that limp goodness.
*Tomatoes. We never get a good tomato harvest as they are always eaten right off the vine. Happy she enjoys them, but it's only good for those few precious tomato months of the year.
*A few leaves of lettuce or baby spinach.
*Raw jicama

*Broccoli. I've tried selling it as "little trees" a la Enchanted Broccoli Forest to no good. I think it's the absolute least favorite.
*Most cooked veggies, even with cheese sauce.
*Anything pickled.
*Wonderfully crisp, cooked green beans. Heaven forbid.
*Cooked squash, even with butter and brown sugar. This defies all logic, since it is now really more of a dessert than a vegetable.

Themes: crisp, relatively tasteless or sweet: good
cabbagey or cruciferous flavor: bad

So, my goal for the next month is to find a few more vegetables she'll eat. Wish me luck.